If you’ve been working in HR for a few years, you might be interested in expanding your knowledge and putting a formal stamp on your expertise by obtaining an HR certification. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it and how in the world to start that process, this post is for you. This year I set a New Year’s resolution for myself of taking (and passing!) the SHRM-SCP (SHRM Senior Certified Professional) exam. I’ve been working in HR technology since the late 90’s, and as a recent technologist-turned-consultant, I decided it was high time to put my knowledge to the test and round out my HR knowledge.
Mind you, my last official standardized test was well before Y2K, so this was mentally a big deal. After signing up, I started with one of the online practice tests so that I could gauge just how much studying I would need to do. The answer was A LOT. However, I’m happy to report that this summer, after postponing my test date as far out as I could, I did take, pass, and receive my SHRM-SCP certification! Lucky for you, I’ve got all the tips on how to prep and pass this surprisingly difficult exam.
How to Prepare (Hint: It Involves Studying)
You should know going in – there is a lot of material to study. Even if you have experience in HR, you will not just “know” the information required to pass without spending a good amount of time hitting the books. The provided study material alone had well over 1000 pages of content to review.
What I really began to understand after I dove into this project is that even with all those reference materials, simply doing the reading is not enough. At the core of the exam they are testing for a level of competency in how you apply your judgment to best manage situations that arise. Situational fluency in the context SHRM’s body of knowledge is what you will need to pass. For me, this did not come naturally. It came through a series of several practice tests and a lot of reading, followed by more practice tests…and more reading. When the day of the test came, I had yet to actually pass a practice test. Knowing too that pass rates are slightly better than 50%, I was fully resigned to fail the test and learn from the experience. After three long hours of test taking on a day in mid-July this year, I clicked the final submit button, completely resigned to my failure, and was beyond elated to discover I had passed!
Is it Worth the Headaches?
After sinking countless hours over the last half year into this project, I had a moment where I had to ask myself if this certification was truly worth the effort. The answer is a resounding yes! There is so much relevant and applicable knowledge to gain from the experience. For me the most valuable aspects of the test were the case-by-case situations where my answer reflected the correct course of action to take in that scenario. I found these eye opening for various reasons, but I was truly amazed at how applicable they were to my own professional history.
Thinking back over the past few decades I can recall so many similar situations I’ve witnessed in organizations where I’ve worked. I was surprised to realize how many obviously bad on paper options actually do happen in reality. I’ve left with a belief that having an HR leader that is adept at both identifying and helping an organization navigate to consistently better outcomes is a fundamental advantage.
And let me say, I have a new found appreciation and respect for anyone who has this certification.
Key Study Tips:
If you decide you want to get certified yourself, I’ve got a few more nuggets of wisdom for you. I personally used the SHRM online learning system, so my advice is from that perspective.
- Baseline yourself by taking the practice test.
- Set aside time to study. I personally studied somewhere between 50-80 hours using the online study materials.
- Inside the system reading content areas, take the quizzes provided repeatedly until you’ve seen all possible questions and their explanations. I found the explanations as helpful as the questions in giving direct applicable context beyond a situation and explaining how to understand the situation in the way the test examines for.
- Don’t overlook the right hand rail in the study area. This is where you find SHRM’s body of competency knowledge and competencies in action videos. These videos begin to give light to applying competencies with situational fluency.
- Give yourself time with the post test. I ran into a time crunch and did not take this until late the night before the test. Unlike the pre-test provided, you get to go through and learn from your wrong answers. Take the time to do this.
I’ll end with three cheers for you if you are embarking on this endeavor. Feel free to message me if you’re prepping and need words of encouragement!